Semester abroad sparks interest in public health

Eden Grimes standing outside the entrance to the University of Montreal while holding a bag and a cup of iced coffee. Light snow is falling.
Eden Grimes, senior in global resource systems and French, spent last spring semester studying at the University of Montreal and McGill University's School of Human Nutrition as part of Iowa State's National Student Exchange program.

By Whitney Baxter

A bit of courage and a passion for the French language led Eden Grimes to embark on a semester-long student exchange program in Canada.

Grimes, a senior in global resource systems and French, learned about Iowa State’s National Student Exchange program during a study abroad fair. Knowing both of her majors required study abroad experiences, she decided to investigate available options.

She was accepted into a four-month intensive French language program at the University of Montreal in Quebec, which took place during the spring 2023 semester. Wanting to make the most of her time there, Grimes contacted one of her global resource systems connections, Gail Nonnecke, Morrill Professor of horticulture, to see if she knew of any internship opportunities in Quebec.

Nonnecke connected Grimes with Grace Marquis, former Iowa State faculty member and current associate professor in McGill University’s School of Human Nutrition, also located in Quebec. As luck would have it, Marquis was looking to fill an intern position on her research team.

“I would have never had the courage to address Dr. Nonnecke about internship opportunities if it hadn’t been for the networking skills that I had developed through my global resource systems major,” Grimes said.

Eden Grimes taking a selfie with fellow researchers.
Eden Grimes, left, enjoyed learning from other researchers involved with Grace Marquis' Women's Empowerment through Nutrition research team at McGill University.

So, in addition to advancing her French-speaking fluency, Grimes spent that spring semester getting her first taste of data analysis by working with Marquis’ Women’s Empowerment through Nutrition research team. The researchers were studying women in Ghana, Africa, who were raising their food. The researchers wanted to learn how these women’s ability to provide nutritional food for themselves and their families made the women feel.

“I was in awe of the women on the research team leading me through the project,” Grimes said.

She recalls her last supper with the research team before returning to Iowa and how everyone spoke of what brought them to the team. For some, it exposed them to new opportunities. For others, it offered a chance to be immersed in a bilingual culture. For Grimes, it opened her eyes to a future in research and a newfound intent to pursue a master’s in public health.

With one more year before she graduates from Iowa State, Grimes is already looking ahead to her future career. She wants to work in an area where the French language is spoken and is grateful for the semester-long experience studying the language in Canada.

“I want to make an impact in the world, but start at the local level first,” Grimes said. “I want to be able to connect with people who feel isolated in their own community because they are in the minority and may not speak the local language.”